About the Artwork

The paintings that follow are a sampling of the work I've done over the past forty years. They are in oils and acrylics on canvas primarily. There is a section devoted to other mediums. The photos of the paintings are published in small size, but detail shots may be enlarged.

These pieces have been organized into the Four Elements of Earth, Air, Fire, and Water. Each blog entry will present another element.

I do have prints of many of the pieces. Please contact me by email at www.moriainsantafe@yahoo.com regarding purchases of originals or prints. Some of these pieces are also available on t-shirts, canvas bags, and other objects on my Cafepress website (see sidebar).

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

The Gourds

I have always sought out unusual canvases for my paintings. Years ago, I discovered artist's fungus (Ganoderma applanatum) in the woods of upstate New York where we lived on an abandoned dairy farm turned community land trust. I worked on these unique natural forms for several years. Now I've managed to bring my passion for seeds together with my artistic bent, and turned my interest to the most ancient of human crops: gourds. 

Here are three views of a large bottle gourd. As I work on the piece, I lose myself in the exploration of minute detail in its mottled, fractured surface, and enhance what I discover to share their natural beauty with others.

Each gourd becomes a small world unto itself, a planetoid full of oceans and continents, magma and winds. The fine detail in the larger gourds can keep one exploring for ages.

A couple of years ago we grew gourds on an arched trellis in our Santa Fe, New Mexico garden...


They did very well. Faced with an overabundance of lovely dry gourds, I wondered what to do with them. The answer sprang artemis-like, fully formed: paint on them! 

There is a legend which says that the mother of the human race was a gourd. One can imagine the little seed-people running out of the pregnant belly of the Mother Gourd to spread across the Earth. There is some evidence for the truth in this, as it appears that gourds were the first crop humans ever cultivated. Their usefulness as containers was so important to our ancestors that they were considered essential to life. A gourd can contain water, seeds, or even fire.

In 2012, my husband Steve took the position of farm manager for Native Seeds/SEARCH, a seed conservation agency. At the farm I discovered a barn full of old, unneeded gourds which couldn't be used for seed as they had cross-pollinated. I knew just what to do with them! I donated one of my finest large gourds to their fund-raiser in exchange for some of the gourds gathering dust in the barn, and set to work in earnest.

It took some time to learn to prepare the gourds for painting. Each one is covered with a waxy skin,  serves well to repel moisture, including paint. To remove the skin, each gourd must be soaked for at least 24 hours, and then scraped carefully to remove every bit.  Next the gourd must be coated with a layer of clear acrylic medium, which improves the adhesion of acrylic paint. After that the fun begins!

My studio in Patagonia, Arizona, with gourds in various stages.

At work in San Mateo, California, on a large Mayo Warty Bule gourd from Native Seeds/SEARCH.

This is one of the most challenging varieties to clean, and I had to use a dental pick to finish it. The work took a full day.

Tentatively beginning to paint on a large Tarahumara Canteen gourd. Each differently-shaped gourd variety reflects human selection for some cultural purpose.

This is a San Juan Dipper gourd, painted during a recent three-day period when Steve and I ran the booth for the Organic Seed Alliance at the International Heirloom Exposition put on by Baker Creek Seeds in Santa Rosa. I brought the gourds just to add interest to the booth and to give me something to do with my hands. It was a great success, as many folks stopped to see what I was doing and stayed to hear about OSA's important work in organic seed development. It turned out to be one of the most subtle and intricate pieces I've done. I call it Tattered Remnants of a Dream.

A detail of the above piece.

Three more varieties: Hopi Rattle, titled Fire Spiral; Peyote Ceremonial, titled Hearts Aflame and Maranka (an African gourd also called Dinosaur or Caveman's Club) titled Energy of Beginning.

While we were in Patagonia, a jaguar was seen near the NS/S farm. I imagined him snagging a wild turkey under the beautiful Arizona sycamores along the creek bed. Unfortunately I painted this before I understood the importance of applying a layer of acrylic medium before painting, and have found it is less durable than my later works, so it will remain with me, a memento of our time in SE Arizona.

With a bit of support, I love how these gourds can stand. Soon I will work on creating permanent bases made from sliced gourds. On the left is one of my favorite large pieces, painted on a Hernandez Dipper gourd. I call it Silver Lining. On the right is another angle of Tattered Remnants, shown above.

A close view of the bottom of a Hopi Rattle gourd entitled Life Rising from the Deep. Like the images, the titles are often drawn from my study of nature.

Pyroclastic is the tile of this work, done on a perfectly formedMayo Gooseneck gourd.

Here is how the recently finished Mayo Warty Bule came out. The shapes of the warts reminded me of nodules of semi-precious minerals. I'm calling it Gems of the Earth.

The same piece seen from the blossom end. 

Here are a few of my pieces. I am hoping to find a gallery in Santa Fe and/or San Francisco where these can be well displayed. Meanwhile, they are available from me. The prices begin at $35. I can be contacted at moriainsantafe@yahoo.com, although I'm not actually in Santa Fe at the present.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Earlier Paintings

In this post I cover the time from attending the University of California at Santa Cruz through my years in upstate New York, and into our time in Pennsylvania, when I was immersed in running a bookstore and raising twins. 
These paintings share a common frontal approach which related to medieval altarpieces. The tend to be heavily symbolist. In my younger days I thought a lot!

The Circle of Life

This small oil was one of the first things I did when I went to UC Santa Cruz. It reveals my interest from an early age in the cycle of birth, death, and rebirth. Later this became central to my spiritual path.

Oil on Canvas, 8" X 10" 
NFS/Personal Collection


Intertwinned is a self portrait I did in college around 1972. It contains very personal and significant imagery regarding my relationship with my closest friend, and my art. All tied together...

Oil on canvas, 30" X 40"
NFS/Private Collection, California

The Rape of Mary

This is a portrait of one of my college friends. A virgin, she was being pressed by a male friend to have sex. All the peer and societal pressure of the time (1972) was on this young woman, who had only her own will to hold up against it. This situation led me to think about the patriarchal idea that the Virgin Mary would have been thrilled to learn she was being impregnated by God. Maybe yes, maybe no.

Oil on Canvas, 32" X 48"
NFS/Private Collection, California


This oil, painted in my studio in Ithaca, NY, was my first serious attempt at painting after a long hiatus. I had spent the years following graduation first traveling in Latin America, and then pursuing a back-to-the-land lifestyle with my husband to-be, Steve (We've now been married 32 years!).
This piece harks back to Intertwinned. But whereas that piece dealt with an outer relationship, this one delves into the chthonian realm of my subconsious to try to recognize and reclaim a part of myself which had long been buried.

Oil on Canvas, 30" X 36"
Prints Available

The King Must Die

This piece relates to one in the post titled Fire, the painting of the antlered being in Willing Sacrifice. I grew up as a Christian, but my spiritual quest led me down other, older paths. I learned that the concept of a sacrifice made for the benefit of the people was an ancient and wide-spread idea. I examined it in this painting, identifying both with the sacrificial king, and with the loving hands pressed against his breast in farewell.

Oil on Canvas, 24" X 36"

Monday, April 5, 2010


The joy of having pure water in the desert cannot be imagined if you haven't experienced it. Agua Es Vida say the people of the land...water is life! Water as a mystical element is the symbol of the West. It is the carrier of our emotions, our deep feelings. The paintings in this section reflect these meanings.

Water in the River

We built our home right on the Santa Fe River. Unfortunately, this is the same river which last year was designated the most endangered in the US. When water flows, it is a beautiful place. In this vision I free the river to be it's natural self. A lucid dreamer soars beneath the clouds, dreaming it into reality.

Oil on Canvas  24" X 30"
Prints Available

details of Water in the River

In the Box Canyon

If you have seen my blog Exploring Around Santa Fe, you know that I love to explore rarely visited locations in this area. Often I'm accompanied only by my dog. This canyon is one I discovered not far out of town. The skull was there, the water was there, the coyote, if he was there, made himself invisible. But I felt his presence.

Oil on Canvas 48" X 60"

details of In the Box Canyon

Animas Creek

Animas Creek flows west out of the wild Gila Mountains in southern New Mexico, until it reaches the Rio Grande. Driving across the mesa you would never know of the magical place just a few yards away, until you came right to the lip of the canyon. The road drops precipitously into a deep V carved out of the dry slope by the creek. The bottom land is a verdant oasis. Here are to be found the largest Arizona sycamores East of the Continental Divide. Thanks to the Army Corps of Engineers, the creek has been channelized to protect the farms and homes in the valley from floods. Unfortunately, this also prevents the conditions necessary for new sycamores to germinate, guaranteeing that this will be the end of this remarkable grove. Unless...
Oil on Canvas 30" X 40"

Agua Es Vida

Again, the sacred element of water in the desert, this time based on a trip to Nambe Falls. The colors are exaggerated, the feeling is not.

Acrylic on Paper 18" X 24"
Prints Available

Red Vein/Green Vein

Another waterfall, this one in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains above Santa Fe. A layer of bright red rock ran diagonally through the matrix, echoed by the green line following the water course. It was an indelible image. My mother dislikes my inclusion of nudes in the landscapes. I can only say that that is how I have always love to experience these special places, and it feels quite right and natural to me to have them there. Sorry, Mom!

Acrylic on Paper  18" X 24"
Prints Available

Creation/The Goddess Runs Amok

I once painted a grand portrait of Astarte, having just discovered her existence by selecting and opening a book at random in a huge college library. This smaller version contains many of the elements of the earlier painting. Creative abandon!

Acrylic on Paper 18" X 24"
Prints Available

Gathering Wild Leeks

This little oil, although it was a self portrait from my days in the hills of upstate New York (yes, I actually did go into the woods, took off my clothes, and dug ramps), was painted soon after our move to New Mexico. Impressionistic in style, I think it was an attempt to reclaim that sense of moisture in the air. The ramps only grew in wet seeps on the north-facing slopes. It was as different from the arid Southwest as one could imagine.

Oil on Canvas, 16" X 20"
Prints Available


Fire is the element of high energy, beyond the physical plane. The paintings I've placed in this section take a step beyond the physical as well. The cardinal direction ruled by fire is the South. It is the direction of high summer, of passion, of the full rich joy of life. Fire is the spark which drives us.

The Willing Sacrifice

This painting came directly from a vision I had during a particularly intense shamanic drum circle. I found myself in a cave during a ceremony, where a figure with a deer head offered himself for the well-being of the people. His Christ-like attitude was branded into my mind. I felt I was bearing witness to the true birth of the sacrificed god, and I had to paint the scene. 

Acrylic on Paper 18" X 24"
Prints Available
detail below

Thought and Memory

This image, of a volcanic eruption in cruciform, blazed in my mind's eye for weeks. The only cure was to paint it. The title comes from the names of Odin's two ravens, which brought him the news of the world as he hung on the tree to attain wisdom. Another sacrifice. This painting actually contains all four elements, interacting.

Oil on Canvas 24" X 30"
Prints Available

Hail Bopp!

This loosely painted impression was created immediately after returning from a trip to the Gila Mountains of southern New Mexico. There we spent time at the City of Rocks. This was at the time when a cult committed mass suicide, believing that their space brothers would carry their souls away on the newly discovered comet, Hale-Bopp; remember? My mind drew the images of the clustered forms in the tufa formation together with the huddled bodies of the cultists, and came up with this.

Oil on Canvas 18" X 36"


Subtitled The Goddess Dabbles In Her Favored Medium, this painting is a kind of surreal self-portrait of my inner artist. My Tibetan Buddhist friends tell me it depicts something called "putting on the rainbow body". That works, too.

Oil on Canvas 24" X 30"
NFS/Private Collection, New Mexico
Prints Available

details of Iris

These details, I think, make rather nice abstract compositions!

Inner Space/Outer Space

Painting without plan or attachment to results, I drew from deep and personal realities to bring this image to light.
Oil on Canvas 30" X 40"
details of Inner Space/Outer Space below

Note that this is one painting which can be hung in any orientation!